In Support and Solidarity with the Geniuses at IRAP

One of our core values at Mission North is “words have power.” Words impact how we think, act and engage with others — from the adoption (or dismissal) of new technologies to the tenor of our political climate. For this reason, we hold a high bar for the companies and organizations we work with: just as our communications initiatives reflect on them, their words and actions reflect on us.

It was the words of Betsy Fisher — policy director at International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) — that brought the organization to our attention this spring. The advocacy nonprofit had risen to the public eye with its response to the Muslim ban, filling airports with lawyers to assist people whose plans to enter the U.S. had been derailed by the ban. We heard Betsy interviewed on NPR and reached out to see if we could support their efforts pro bono as part of our E3thos program, which gives back two percent of Mission North’s time, profits and service to non-profit organizations doing important work in our local communities of New York and San Francisco.

From our first conversation with IRAP, it was clear their communications needs had shifted over the past year. They’d grown quickly and needed a clear, consistent way to talk about themselves as their core audiences and work expanded. Developing concise and actionable messaging is one of Mission North’s superpowers and we’re big fans of deploying it to advance causes and groups we believe in. Assembling and catalyzing a team to work on this in their “spare time” was easy. This type of work is energizing and activates different muscles than even the most riveting press release.   

We brought in IRAP’s executive and communications teams for a workshop dedicated to developing a messaging framework for their work and vision. The IRAP team surrendered to our process, rolling around with the words and debating their nuances. While a four-hour exercise may have felt frivolous to someone who doesn’t work in the industry, the IRAP team understood its impact.

In a world where one doesn’t always know the veracity of news and discourse is increasingly divisive, it’s tremendously important to get the message right — finding words that are true, simple and capable of reaching the right people in their intended way. In the case of IRAP, words are used to build support and to arouse suspicion for the refugee community they serve.  

It feels like the stakes are especially high right now. Technology has enabled things we would not have thought possible even a year ago (one of my other clients, for example, brings technology-assisted helicopters to the scene of every 911 call). The nation is increasingly tense and polarized, and technology seems to be fueling some of those flames. It matters more than ever that organizations are clear about what they believe and who they support.

So, thank you, IRAP, for your collaboration and for the work you do. Congratulations are also in order! Two weeks after wrapping this session, the organization won a MacArthur Genius Grant. We’re proud to stand with an organization so worthy of our trust, support and attention.